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Life Sketch of Dr. Sohan Singh ji

Dr. Sohan Singh – A Life Sketch

(1882 to 1961)

dr. Sohan singh jiDr. Sohan Singh was born in November 1882 in the village of Sahowala, District Sialkot in undivided India. His father Dr. Jagat Singh was a medic in the British Indian Army who also served for a while in Burma and in the north-west frontier areas of Waziristan.

Sohan Singh received his primary education in the village school at Sahowala from 1889 to 1894 where one of his early mentors Maulvi Gulam Qadir who taught him Urdu became a family friend and used to visit the family in Amritsar when the family moved there.

After receiving secondary education from Government High School in Sialkot from 1894 to 1900 Sohan Singh joined the D.A.V. College Lahore and completed his Intermediate F.S.C. (medical group) from 1900 to 1902.

He joined the King Edward Medical College Lahore thereafter (1902 to 1907) and had a brilliant academic career in which he stood first in all the five years of his medical studies and was the recipient of the Burton Brown Medal in Medicine in 1907.He earned his Diploma of L.M.S. (Licentiate of Medicine and Surgery) from the Punjab University in the same year.

Sohan Singh’s father Dr. Jagat Singh was a strict disciplinarian and expected the children to be strictly truthful. The family was also very religious and Sohan Singh remembers visiting the village Gurdwara with his grandfather Nanak Singh when he was just four years old. Religious as the family was, Sohan Singh while studying in Lahore (1900 to 1907) was deeply influenced by the Singh Sabha Movement at that time and incorporated the daily habit of reciting some “Shabads” from the Guru Granth Sahib and lived by the advice contained therein, a habit he continued throughout life.

Dr. Sohan Singh joined the Provincial Civil Medical Services (P.C.M.S.) in 1907 and retired as Vice-Principal, Medical School Amritsar in 1939.In this span of 32 years he was House Surgeon Eye Wards, Mayo Hospital, Lahore from 1908 to 1910 and after joining the teaching staff of Medical College, Lahore in 1910,Demonstrator Anatomy from 1910 to 1914,Lecturer and Senior Demonstrator from 1914 to 1920,Lecturer, Anatomy, Medical School, Amritsar from 1920 to 1922, Lecturer, Diseases of Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat, Medical School Amritsar from 1929 to 1939.

Dr. Sohan Singh was conferred the title of Sardar Sahib in 1924 and the title of Sardar Bahadur in 1938 by the British Indian Government and was also appointed Honorary Assistant Surgeon to the Viceroy of India from 1937 to 1939 in recognition of his outstanding contribution towards the alleviation of blindness due to eye diseases in northern India. In 1956 he received the Padam Shree award from the first President of independent India, Dr. Rajinder Prasad.

Apart from these honors Dr. Sohan Singh was also a recipient of the King George’s V, Silver Jubilee medal in 1935 and King George’s VI, Coronation medal in 1937.He also received the Sword of Honour from the Governing Council of the Khalsa College Amritsar in 1958.

Dr. Sohan Singh was also a philanthropist and a social worker and was deeply involved in charitable work. Apart from free consultations he conducted thousands of free eye operations at various places more notably at Ambala and at the Central Khalsa Hospital in Tarn Taran. He was a truly gifted surgeon and was a master at the Smith’s tumbling technique for Cataract Surgery using a von Graefe’s knife.

He kept himself abreast with the latest developments in the field of eye surgery and visited Europe in 1933 and spent three months in various hospitals in Vienna, Berlin, Paris and London. A Zeiss slit lamp biomicroscope and a diathermy machine which he brought back are a testimony to his eagerness to bring state of the art equipment and skills to India.

Dr. Sohan Singh was also an avid horse rider and his love for fine Arab horses was well known. He would purchase young mares at the annual horse fairs during Baisakhi or Diwali and would train the horses himself. During the early years of his medical career he always rode to the Victoria Jubilee (V.J.) hospital on horseback from Khalsa College where his father lived. Later when motor cars came to India, automobiles became his passion.

Apart from Punjabi, Urdu and English, Dr. Sohan Singh was also fluent in Farsi and would speak to his patients from Afghanistan in Farsi. He was also interested in learning Arabic and the jovial Arabic teacher from the Khalsa College namely Murtaza Hussian would often visit him at home to brush up his Arabic skills.

At a personal level, Dr. Sohan Singh led a very simple family life. His wife Sardarni Kartar Kaur (maiden name Gurdevan) though an ordinary village lady from Daska near Sahowal, was an extremely gentle lady and a sea of wisdom even though she had no formal education.

Dr. Sohan Singh passed away on April 5th 1961 after a brief illness of a few months during which time he was nursed by his daughter-in-law Dr. Rajinder Kaur. He was cheerful, alert and conscious till the last and even from his sick bed he dictated translations of selected passages from the Guru Granth Sahib which appeared in the form of a booklet just a few weeks before his death

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